Did You Know These Important Facts About Estate Planning?
In California, a Will does not avoid probate. If you own real estate or have assets valued at an amount greater than the relatively low limit set by California law, a Will does not protect your estate from going through the probate courts. Probate is a costly and time-consuming process for your heirs. Estate planning can avoid probate.
Every adult needs an estate plan, regardless of their age or value of their assets. Estate planning is not just for the elderly or wealthy. Accidents and illness can happen unexpectedly at any age. Estate planning can provide for you if you become incapacitated, protect your children, and prevent unnecessary expense and conflict for your family if you pass away.
Even if you are not married and don’t have children, you still need an estate plan. Estate planning includes more than just who gets your assets after your death. It also includes preparing a Durable Power of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directive to give authority to trusted people to handle your finances and take care of your medical needs if you become incapacitated due to an injury or illness.
If you are unmarried, own your home, and live with a partner, your partner may be forced out the home if you die. If you would like for your partner to continue to live in your home after your death and delay the distribution of your home to your beneficiaries until after your partner’s death, we can do this with a carefully drafted estate plan.
Creating an estate plan by using online forms is not an effective means of preparing an estate plan. Estate planning using online forms may initially appear to be less expensive, but you typically get what you pay for. When you hire an attorney, it is not just for the preparation of estate plan documents. You are also hiring an attorney to provide estate planning options for your family’s specific needs, to guide you through the process to ensure that your objectives are met, and to answer your questions. Online forms do not involve the advice of an attorney during drafting, and often use vague language or general terms that may not apply to your specific situation. If there is a mistake in your online Will or Trust, or if the documents are not properly executed, it can result in costly litigation and family conflict for your heirs.
If you do not have a Will or Trust, California law determines how your property will be distributed, regardless of your family’s wishes. If you do not have an estate plan detailing the distribution of your assets after your death, California intestate law will determine how property is to be distributed to family members, regardless of your expressed wishes prior to your death, and even if your family wishes a different distribution. Under intestate law, property may be distributed to estranged family members, and property is typically not distributed to unmarried partners or stepchildren.
Even if you have a Power of Attorney document, you still need a Will or Trust. A Durable Power of Attorney document authorizes someone to manage your financial and legal matters, typically if you are incapacitated. However, if you pass away, the Durable Power of Attorney is no longer effective.